My journalist antennae perked up. I heard from reporter Bhupraj Khadka that a family in Jogimara had conducted a funeral of one of the dead even though it had not received his body from the Army.
As a film-maker, I felt this could be a way to portray the cruelty and senselessness of war. But there was an insurgency going on, and filming would be difficult and costly. I approached renowned documentary maker Dhruba Basnet, who had made the film रक्ताम्मे गराहरू (Blood-soaked Terraces) and we had worked together in many parts of Nepal.
Rajendra Dahal, editor at Himal Khabarpatrika, offered to publish the story. In Jogimara, I met 15 of the 17 families who had lost their men in a massacre 500km at the other end of Nepal in Kotbada. The story came out in Himal, and Nepali Times translated it in the issue #106 of 9-15 August 2002 (screenshots, below). This was a rare exposé of a conflict-era crime.
We started working on the video footage, and were convinced it would be an important documentation of the tragedy. We had to do it on a shoe-string budget, and the film finally premiered at KIMFF 2002.
There was pin-drop silence during the screening. From time to time, I could hear sobbing in the dark. But I had to concentrate on the approaching 10:47 on the VHS digital clock. At exactly 47 seconds, projectionist Sudarshan Karki muted the sound.
The audience had been quiet till then, but I heard murmurs: “They’re censoring.” I had to have a ready answer in the remaining 32 minutes of the film, because the viewers were sure to have questions afterwards.